Harness The Mountain Magic At Shenandoah Downs Beginning Sept. 17

Dates and post times for the sixth annual fall harness racing season at Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock have been announced, pending Virginia Racing Commission approval at the upcoming June 14 meeting.

The five-week pari-mutuel meet will run from September 17 – October 16 with racing every Friday at 3:30 PM and Saturday at 1 PM. Races take place at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds in Woodstock, located halfway between Harrisonburg and Winchester off I-81 at Exit 283.

Legendary horse Foiled Again prevailed at Shenandoah Downs in September, 2018 to the delight of a packed house. Photo by Dee Leftwich.

Racing officials are anxious to welcome fans back in 2021 and a slate of promotions are set. Friday “Happy Hour” racing will feature $2 draft beers and other specials. The first Saturday, September 18, is highlighted by a commemorative “Harness The Mountain Magic” t-shirt giveaway to the fist 500 fans and the VHHA’s popular “Own a Horse for Day” drawing. Over the course of the meet, a total of 24 fans will get to experience the thrill of owning a horse and best of all, keep the purse money their horse wins in a $4,000 race!

Other Saturday promos include Veterans Day on Sept. 25, the Chamber’s annual Autumnfest Celebration on Oct. 2 (that normally draws 3,000 people), “Pink Power” Breast Cancer Awareness Day on Oct. 9 and the very popular Wiener Dog races on closing day, October 16.

Wiener Dog races will be held between pari-mutuel harness races on October 16.

Racing applications will be available on line beginning July 1 at vhha.net and shenandoahdowns.com. The barn area will open Wednesday September 15 and close on Wednesday October 19. Purse distribution is expected to average $50,000 per day. 

The Virginia Breeders race schedule has also been confirmed and will be presented in a slightly different format from past years.

Opening weekend will feature eliminations for three-year-old trotters on September 17 and three-year-old pacers the following day. Elims for two-year-olds will be held the second weekend — trotters on September 24 and pacers on September 25. The 24th annual Breeders Championships, which also include aged races and combined purse monies well over $300,000, will take center stage on the third weekend. Trotters in the two, three and aged divisions will go for big money on October 1 while pacers in each will compete on October 2. 

Woodstock local Betsy Brown is surrounded by family and friends in the Shenandoah Downs winners circle.

The Shenandoah County Fair will continue a decades long tradition of harness racing at their late summer Fair — held at the same Woodstock location — two weeks before the “Downs” meet begins. A four-day season will run September 1 – 4 with a daily post time of 12 Noon. Renowned harness race caller Roger Huston will announce the cards on September 1 & 2.

The Virginia Harness Horse Association (VHHA) also announced details of an enhanced Certified Residency Program that will offer combined bonus monies of $2 million to participating 2020 and 2021 foals. 

In order to enroll in the lucrative program, horses must register with the VHHA and reside at a participating farm or training center in the Commonwealth for a minimum of six consecutive months before they turn two years of age. Once horses start competing, they will accumulate points from every money earning start as a two and three-year-old. The better the finishing position in each start, the more points they will accumulate. Double points will be awarded from any start in Virginia — at the Shenandoah County Fair and Shenandoah Downs meets. 

Amanda Jackson’s foal Hillbilly Honey at her farm in Burkeville.

Awards are distributed based on cumulative year end point totals and the bonus money pool available. 2020 foals will compete for a $300,000 bonus pool in each of their two and three-year-old race seasons while 2021 foals will vie for a $400,000 pool in each. Horses in the Certified program will also be eligible to compete in a series of newly added $25,000 restricted races at Shenandoah Downs during their freshman and sophomore seasons, based on their age, sex and gait. 

Complete program details, application forms and a list of participating farms is available at vhha.net. For more information, call Debbie Warnick at 443-463-0917.  The Residency program is separate from the Virginia Breeders Fund program.